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Huge bolts jammed into the rear tyre and a few loose screws under the lid. Welcome to the gravity-defying motorcycle sport of hillclimb

Surely bloody not. Two 300cc two-stroke engines mounted in the same chassis, it looked like computer editing. The swingarm was too long. Hang on, there’s a pair of 700cc Zabel engines – usually only found in sidecarcross outfits – over there in a Frankenstein-looking bike. What the hell did they put in my coffee?

I’d found myself at a round of the French Hill Climbing Championship and as a pure novice to the rules, the bikes or the people who race it, I had ears and eyes wide open.

And, as it turns out, wide open is mandatory; “Competitors are allowed bolts, in free quantity, fixed inside the tyre. Or paddles linked together by a rod, a cable or a chain,” came the answer when I asked an official about the rules.

Aboard a loud and cranky four-cylinder engine, Franck spins his wheel for a few meters before losing the rear and falling flat on his head. He dusts himself before kicking his bike, which seems to make him feel better.

Though it’s hardly surprising. A high-powered superbike engine trying to get power down to a chopped up dirt ramp via a nine-foot long conglomerate of scrap metal. At the end of the dirt ramp, there is a vertical wall of rock to get over. But before this point, most riders have already bounced like a spring, flicked sideways, this way or that, whichever way the bike dictates, and eaten dirt. It’s like planned whiskey throttle, open the taps, hang on and see what happens.

Check out the full story in the current issue of AMCN (Vol 69 No 17) on sale now